They have gone through pregnancy, labour, and delivery, and are now ready to go home and start life with their baby. But once home, they may feel like they have no idea what they are doing.
These tips can help even the most nervous new parents quickly feel confident in the task of caring for a newborn.
Ask for help after the birth
Consider getting help during this time, which can be very overwhelming and hectic. While you’re in the hospital, talk to the experts around you. Many hospitals have feeding specialists or lactation consultants who can help you start breastfeeding or bottle feeding . Nurses are also an excellent resource for learning how to lift, burp, change, and care for your baby.
For help at home, you may want to hire a responsible baby nurse, midwife, or teenage neighbor to help out for a few days after the birth. Your doctor or hospital can help you find information about home help and may be able to recommend some home help agencies.
Relatives and friends often want to help, too. Even if you disagree on some things, don’t dismiss their experience. But if you don’t feel like having visitors or have other concerns, don’t feel guilty about restricting visits.
Handling a newborn
If you haven’t spent a lot of time around newborns, their frailty may be intimidating. Here are some basics to keep in mind:
- Wash your hands (or use a hand sanitiser) before holding the baby. Newborns do not yet have strong immune systems, so they are at risk for infection. Make sure everyone who touches the baby has clean hands.
- Support the baby’s head and neck. When cradling your baby, lifting him upright, or laying him down, you need to support his head.
- Never shake the newborn, either to play or to vent your frustration. Shaking can cause bleeding in the brain and even death. If you need to wake the baby, do not shake him; just stroke her feet or cheeks.
- Be sure to tie the straps of the stroller or car seat when placing your baby. Limit activities that could be very rough or jarring.
- Remember that the newborn is not prepared for rough play, such as rocking him on his knees or throwing him into the air.
Bonding and reassuring the baby
Creating bonding is probably one of the most pleasurable parts of the care of babies and occurs at the time of increased sensitivity during the first hours and days following birth, when parents set a deep connection with the baby. Physical closeness can foster emotional connection.
For babies, attachment supports emotional growth, which affects their development in other areas, such as physical growth. Another way to bond is to “fall in love” with the baby. Children thrive when they have a parent or other adult in their life who loves them unconditionally.
Begin bonding by cradling your baby and gently stroking him. Both you and your partner can take advantage of “skin-to-skin” contact while cradling or feeding the baby.
Babies, especially premature babies and those with medical conditions, may respond to baby massages. Some types of massage can enhance bonding and help your baby grow and develop. There are many books and videos about baby massage; ask your doctor to recommend some. However, you need to be careful because babies are not as strong as adults; therefore, it is important to massage them gently.
Babies often adore the sounds of the voice, when they speak to them, sing to them, babble or coo to them. Your baby probably likes listening to music too. Rattles and musical mobiles are other good ways to stimulate your baby’s hearing. If your little one is upset, try singing to him, reciting a nursery rhyme or poem, or reading aloud to him while gently cradling him in a chair.
Some babies are more sensitive to touch, light, or sounds than others and may become frightened or cry easily, sleep less than expected, or turn their faces when someone speaks or sings to them. If this happens to your baby, reduce the noise and lights to a low or moderate level.
Another technique to soothe babies, which is very helpful for some babies during the first few weeks, is swaddling (wrapping a blanket snugly). Every new parent should learn how to do it. In order to properly “girdle” babies, it is necessary to keep the arms close to the body and allow some movement of the legs. Swaddling the baby not only serves to keep him warm, but it seems to give newborns a sense of security and comfort. Swaddling the baby can also help reduce the startle reflex, which can wake the baby up.
This is the way to swaddle a baby:
- Spread out the blanket, with one corner slightly folded.
- Place the baby on his back on the blanket with his head above the folded corner.
- Wrap the left corner over the baby’s body and tuck it under the baby’s back, just below the right arm.
- Bring the bottom corner up over the baby’s feet and fold it toward the head. If the blanket is too close to the baby’s face, fold it down. Make sure you don’t wrap too tightly around the hip. The hips and knees should be slightly bent and out. Swaddling your baby too tightly can increase the chances of hip dysplasia.
- Wrap the right corner around the baby and place it under the back, on the left side. Leave only the neck and head exposed. To make sure your baby isn’t clothed too tight, see if you can put your hand between the blanket and your baby’s chest, which will allow him to breathe easily. However, you must make sure that the blanket is not too loose to prevent it from unravelling.
- Babies should not be tucked in after two months of age. At this age, some babies can roll over when clothed and this can increase the risk of SIDS.
All about diapers
Before you go home, you may already have decided whether to use disposable or cloth diapers. No matter which one you use, your little one will make diapers dirty about 10 times a day, or about 70 times a week.
Before changing your baby’s diaper, make sure you have everything you need within reach. This way, you won’t have to leave your baby unattended on the changing table. You will need the following:
- a clean diaper
- bras (if wearing cloth diapers)
- ointment for the diaper area
- baby wipes (or a bowl of hot water and a washcloth or cotton wool)
After each tummy move or if the diaper is wet, place your baby on his back and remove the dirty diaper. Use water, cotton wool, and a washcloth or wipes to gently clean the baby’s genital area. When removing a child’s diaper, do so carefully, because exposure to air can cause them to urinate. When cleaning a girl’s genital area, wipe it from front to back to avoid a urinary tract infection. To prevent or heal a rash, apply ointment. Remember to always wash your hands after changing a diaper.
Diaper rash is a common concern. In general, dermatitis is a red, bumpy rash that disappears in a few days with warm baths, a little cream and some time without the diaper. Most rashes occur because the baby’s skin is sensitive and irritated by wet or dirty diapers.
To prevent or cure diaper rash, try the following tips:
- Change your baby’s diaper often and as soon as possible after he moves.
- Gently clean the area with mild soap and water (wipes can sometimes cause irritation). Then apply a very thick layer of diaper rash cream. It is convenient to use zinc oxide creams because they form a barrier against moisture.
- If you use cloth diapers, wash them with fragrance-free, pigment-free detergent.
- Let the baby go without a diaper for a while during the day. This gives the skin a chance to ventilate.
If the diaper rash continues for more than three days or seems to be getting worse, call your doctor. It may be due to an infection with a fungus that requires a prescription drug.
You should give your baby a sponge bath until the following occur:
- umbilical cord falls off and belly button heals completely (1 to 4 weeks)
- circumcision heals (1 to 2 weeks)
During the first year, a bath two to three times a week is sufficient. More frequent baths can cause dry skin.
Have these items ready before bathing your baby:
- a clean, soft cloth
- mild baby soap and shampoo, free of fragrance
- a soft brush to stimulate the baby’s scalp
- towels or blankets
- a clean diaper
- clean clothes
Sponge baths. For a sponge bath, find a safe, flat surface (such as a changing table, floor, or counter) in a warm room. Fill a sink, if one is nearby, or a container with warm (not hot) water. Undress the baby and wrap him in a towel. Clean the baby’s eyes with a cloth (or a clean cotton ball) soaked in water, starting with one eye and wiping from the inner corner to the outer corner. Use a clean end of the cloth or another cotton ball to wash the other eye. Clean the baby’s nose and ears with a damp cloth. Afterwards, moisten the cloth again with a little soap,
Next, with a baby shampoo, lather and gently wash the baby’s head. Then rinse it off. With soap and a damp cloth, gently wash the rest of the body, paying special attention to the folds that form under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck and in the genital area. Once you have cleaned these areas, make sure they are thoroughly dry. Then put on the diaper and dress the baby.
Baths in the bathtub. When your baby is ready for a bath, the first few baths should be brief and gentle. If the baby becomes fussy, sponge bathe again for a week or two. Then try bathing him in a bathtub again.
In addition to the items we mentioned earlier, you will also need the following:
- a baby bathtub with 2 to 3 inches of warm (not hot!) water. To test the water temperature, submerge the inside of your elbow or wrist in the water. Baby bathtubs are made of plastic and can be placed inside the bathtub; the size is better for babies and makes bathing easier.
Undress the baby and then immediately place him in the water, in a warm room, to avoid getting cold. Make sure the water in the tub is no more than 2 to 3 inches deep and that no more water is getting into the tub. Use one hand to support the baby’s head and the other to guide the baby’s feet into the water first. Speak softly to her and slowly place your baby in the bathtub until the water reaches her breast.
Use a washcloth to wash your face and hair. Gently massage your baby’s scalp with your fingertips or a soft baby brush, including the fontanelle area (soft spots) on the top of the head. When you rinse the soap or shampoo from your baby’s head, place one hand on the forehead so that the soap runs to the sides and does not get into the baby’s eyes. Gently wash the rest of the baby’s body with water and a small amount of soap.
Throughout the bath, regularly pour water over the baby’s body so that he is not cold. After bathing, immediately wrap the baby in a towel and be sure to cover his head. Hooded baby towels are great for keeping a freshly bathed baby warm.
Never leave your baby alone while you are bathing him. If you need to get out of the bathroom, wrap your baby in a towel and take him with you.
Umbilical cord care and circumcision
Immediately after circumcision , the tip of the penis is usually covered with gauze soaked in petroleum jelly to prevent the wound from sticking to the diaper. Gently wipe the clean tip with warm water after the diaper change. Then put petroleum jelly on the tip of the penis so that it does not stick to the diaper. The redness or irritation of the penis should heal within a few days, but if the redness worsens, there is swelling or pus-filled blisters, an infection may be present and you should call your baby’s doctor immediately.
Umbilical cord care in newborns is also important. Some doctors suggest cleaning the area with an alcohol swab until the cord stump dries and falls off, which usually occurs in 10 days to 3 weeks. But other doctors recommend not touching the area. Talk to your child’s doctor to find out what he prefers.
The baby’s navel area should not be submerged in water until the umbilical cord stump falls off and the area has healed. Until it falls off, the cord stump will change color from yellow to brown or black. This is normal. Call your doctor if your belly button area looks red, has an unpleasant odor, or drains.
Feeding and burping your baby
Regardless of whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, you will probably be amazed at how often this needs to be done. In general, feeding babies on demand is recommended; whenever they seem hungry. Your baby may let you know by crying, putting his fingers in his mouth, or making sucking sounds.
Newborn babies need to be fed every 2 to 3 hours. If you are breastfeeding, give your baby a chance to take 10-15 minutes from each breast. If you are formula feeding, your baby will most likely drink about 2 to 3 ounces (60 to 90 millilitres) each time you feed him. Try these Simple positions to breastfeed your baby.
Some newborns may need to be awakened every few hours to make sure they get enough to eat. If you need to wake your newborn frequently or if your baby does not seem interested in feeding or sucking, call the doctor.
If you are formula feeding, you can easily monitor whether your baby is getting enough food; But if you breastfeed, it can be a bit more difficult. If your baby seems satisfied, wets about six diapers and moves his belly several times a day, sleeps well, and regularly gains weight, then he is probably eating enough.
Another good way to determine if your baby is drinking milk is to check to see if your breasts feel full before feeding the baby and not so much afterwards. Talk to the doctor if you are concerned about your child’s growth or feeding schedule.
Babies often swallow air when feeding and this can make them fussy. To help prevent this problem, burp your baby often. Try to burp him every 2 to 3 ounces (60 to 90 ml) of milk if you give him a bottle or every time he changes your breast if he is breastfeeding.
If your baby is prone to gas, has GERD, or seems fussy while feeding, try burping him after every ounce (30 ml) of milk if you bottle feed or every five minutes if you breastfeed.
Try these tips to make him/her burp:
- Hold your baby upright, with his head on your shoulder. Support your baby’s head and back and gently pat his back with your other hand.
- Sit the baby on your lap. Support the baby’s chest and head with one hand, resting the infant’s chin in your palm, so that the lower end of the palm is in contact with the baby’s chest (be careful to grasp the baby’s chin, not the throat). With the other hand, gently pat on the back.
- Lay the baby face down on your lap. Support the baby’s head and make sure it is higher than the chest. Afterward, pat or rub her back.
If the baby doesn’t burp after a few minutes, change his position and try to burp him for a few more minutes before feeding him again. Every time you finish feeding, burp the baby. Afterward, keep him upright for at least 10-15 minutes to prevent spitting up.
As a new parent, it may surprise you to learn that newborns, who seem to need it every minute of the day, actually sleep about 16 hours or more.
Newborns usually sleep for periods of 2 to 4 hours. Don’t expect yours to sleep through the night. Babies’ digestive systems are so small that they need to be fed every few hours and need to be awakened if they have not received food for 4 hours (or more often if the doctor is concerned about weight gain).
When can you expect the baby to sleep through the night? Many babies sleep through the night (6-8 hours) by three months of age, but if yours doesn’t, you don’t have to worry. Like adults, babies must develop their own sleep patterns and cycles. So if your newborn is gaining weight and is healthy, don’t despair if he doesn’t sleep through the night by 3 months of age.
It is important that you always put your baby on his back to sleep in order to reduce the risk of SIDS . Other safe sleeping practices include: not using blankets, padding, sheepskin, stuffed animals, or pillows in the crib or bassinet (these items can drown the baby) and sharing the room (but not the bed ) with parents for the first six to twelve months. Also, you should make sure to change the position of the baby’s head overnight (first to the right and then to the left) to prevent the development of a flat area. on one side of the head.
Many newborns have “swapped” day and night. They tend to be more awake and alert at night and more sleepy during the day. One way to help them is to minimize stimulation at night. Maintain soft lighting, for example by using a nightstand. Save games and talk with the baby for the day. When your baby wakes up during the day, try to keep him awake for a while longer by talking and playing.
While dealing with a newborn is likely to make you anxious, in a few weeks you will develop a routine and be an expert. If you have any questions or are concerned about anything, ask your doctor to recommend resources that can help you and your baby grow together.